Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Tech: Hades review


Supergiant Games's action-RPG rogue-lite Hades finally exited early access last month, and I've been noodling around the game on my Nintendo Switch. In Hades, you play as the rebellious son of the titular Lord of the Underworld, fighting an army of your father's minions in a hopeless bid to reach the surface. If you die, you are carried by the River Styx all the way back to the start, to be needled by Hades for your insouciance and to prepare for the next try.

In each run, you are aided by other gods, both Olympian and otherwise. Through repeated escape attempts, you'll gradually get stronger and also unlock more conversations with the gods, propelling the story forward in a manner that is most unusual in this genre. The artwork and voice acting for these bits are excellent, making each sideplot a neat little reward in its own right.

Repetition does set in, though, because there isn't enough variation in the enemies and environments to make one run substantially different from another in Hades. While there are plenty of weapons, boons, and trinkets to try, none of them fundamentally change the gameplay. After I reached the surface for the first time, I felt no need to get there 10 more times for the "true" ending.

Rating: 85/100

P.S. - I played on Nintendo Switch, and while the game ran fine for the most part, there were very rare framerate dips when things got frantic. I also found the handheld mode unusable, due to the small relative size of your character and the text on screen.

Guns: Quarantine Training

Due to current events, Shoot Straight's indoor range is almost always full on the weekends, so I haven't been able to shoot as often as I should. With all the lockdowns and ammo shortages, I feel like there are a lot of people out there in the same boat, so here are a few options for firearms training that don't require burning powder:

The Dry Fire Primer - Competition shooter and writer Annette Evans put together one of the best (and only) books on dry fire training out there, aptly titled The Dry Fire Primer. This is a comprehensive manual, covering everything from setting up your own dry fire "dojo" (no ammo allowed, natch), to constructing drills, to integrating live fire into your training. If you subscribe to the adage that "perfect practice makes perfect," this book is well worth a few bucks.

LaserLyte Laser Trainers - To be honest, I find some of LaserLyte's reactive target products to be a tad gimmicky, but their base laser training cartridges function well. Just chamber the training cartridge inside your favorite firearm, and it'll emit a momentary pulse of laser light every time the hammer falls. My friends and I set up an impromptu dry fire shooting range in a basement by hanging a target and painting it with the laser; we could see if we were jerking the trigger by how much "smear" was on the laser dot.

Thunder Ranch USB Training Archives - I have access to excellent training locally, but one of my bucket list items was always to visit Gunsite or Thunder Ranch to take a class. While that's obviously not in the cards right now, Thunder Ranch is still offering Clint Smith's digital courses on USB thumb drives. If you know anything about Clint Smith, you know what to expect - salty, no-BS advice with a health dose of l-o-g-i-c.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Books: The Homesman

I recently enjoyed The Homesman, a Western novel by Glendon Swarthout.  In the book, four wives have been driven insane by the travails of pioneer life. When none of their husbands volunteer to take them home to the East, the task falls to hardworking-but-plain spinster Mary Bee Cuddy and unscrupulous drifter George Briggs. Their odyssey takes them through ice storms, bandits, hostile native Americans, and con artists, but perhaps the greatest peril is the isolation and sorrow of the harsh frontier.

The Homesman takes a far more cynical view of the frontier than Swarthout's other big Western, The Shootist, which is probably why it took over two decades for the book to be adapted into a faithful but money-losing film by Tommy Lee Jones. Swarthout carefully researched 19th century life on the plains,  so there aren't many gunfights or wagon chases - just the West, in all its terrible desolation.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Miscellany: Surefire E1B Backup MV review

I've carried my fair share of cheapo Chinese-made flashlights, as well as some pricey domestic options (your Elzettas and Malkoffs), but I keep coming back to Surefire. Their torches tend to be hideously expensive and dimmer than the competition, but they strike a good balance between reliability, durability, and portability that's hard to find anywhere else.

Case in point - the Surefire E1B Backup MV. I know for a fact that this flashlight is incredibly tough; it survived a trip through a washing machine and dryer without being any worse for wear. And the E1B was only accidentally thrown in the laundry because it carries discretely in a back pocket with a sturdy two-way clip, despite the somewhat bulbous head.

The Backup uses Surefire's "MaxVision" beam, which puts out a flood or wall of light rather than throwing out a tight hotspot.  If you need to light something up at distance in the sticks, it's suboptimal, but the beam works well for lighting up a room, a dark parking garage, or a city alleyway. Output is rated at 400 lumens on high and 5 lumens on low. The light always defaults to high, and you select between the modes by tapping the tailswitch, with constant-on accessed by clicking in the switch.

Despite the tactical-sounding name, the E1B Backup is actually ill-suited for weaponlight work. The switch methodology makes it risky to use momentary, since if you pulse the light for less than 2 seconds in a fight you'll switch to the anemic low mode. Another drawback is that the tailswitch is not shrouded, which means the light cannot tailstand and can (rarely) get switched on in the pocket. As an EDC light, though, this is a good competitive option so long as you can swing the $140 asking price .